Saturday, May 5, 2018

Japan 2018 * Day 5-9 * Kyoto + Uji + Osaka

Our next destination in Japan was Kyoto. (This post won't be in chronological order but more devided by 'topics' ^-^)

We travelled there with the Shinkansen. Of course we also bought an Ekiben (train bento) before entering the train, you can't travel by Shinkansen without one! I made sure to choose the seats on the correct side of the train to be able to see Mount Fuji, but you really have to run quickly to secure a good seat haha! On my last trip I didn't knew about this, so this time was acutally the first time I saw Mount Fuji. It is so beautiful and I couldn't stop looking at it while we passed it!

Luckily we could book our favorite hotel in Kyoto again: Grand Bach Hotel. I really love it because it kinda feels like a luxury hotel but it's still affordable. It has an amazing traditional japanese breakfast, japanese style rooms, free tea and water bottles in the room, free tea and coffee in the evening, even a soup at night, music from Bach playing everywhere, and an onsen (no I don't get paid for saying this xD). On my last trip I was too afraid to use the onsen (because you have to get naked in front of other people), but this time I didn't had a problem with this at all, and I used it every day, one time even in the morning!

On my last trip I didn't spend much time with the culinary side of Japan, but this time I made sure to try aaall the foods possible haha. On top of my list were traditional japanese desserts, and some of the cafés with such food were actually in traditional japanese houses!

I also wanted to try different sakes, and I found a sake bar whose owner could speak english. We tried 3 sakes there, and I could have tasted more but it was 500yen per tiny glass. The owner asked us for our preferences and chose each sake very carefully.

Kakigori (shaved ice fluffy like snow) with Matcha sauce
Matcha parfait
Matcha soba, Matcha parfaits, iced Matcha teas
Matcha ice cream, Matcha fuji cakes, Dango, Matcha tea
Dango with a sweet smokey soy sauce and Kinako (soy bean flour)
Taiyaki (fish waffle filled with custard)
Kakigori with a sauce made from fresh strawberries and condensed milk
Gyoza (dumplings), Karaage (fried chicken), Omurice (omlette filled with rice)
Yakiniku (meat that you grill yourself)

Ume season
While I was a little sad that I would miss Sakura season in Japan, I was happy when I found out that February is acutally Ume (plum blossom) season! Our hotel also had a beautiful map with all the Ume spots in Kyoto, however....... none of them were blooming yet when we were there. They should've been blooming but the weather was probably too cold yet. However from time to time we did stumble over a tree with plum blossoms, sometimes with only a few open buds, and it was funny that at every blooming tree there were people stopping and appreciating the blossoms or taking pictures of it. So while Ume is not so huge and famous like Sakura, they are still a "thing" in Japan (just like in Sakura season, you can buy a lot of Ume-related products during Ume season).

On this trip I was also so lucky to see real Maikos for 2 times! At least I'm 99% sure they were real. The first one was not actually in full attire but in her "daily wear". We were walking through Gion (one of the Geisha districts) quite early in the morning, and this girl has worn the typical Maiko hairstyle (Maikos have to make this hairstyle from their real hair, and because it's so complicated they wear it 24/7 and only go to the hairdresser once per week). She wore a simple Kimono, no make up, and was walking quite fast and alone (tourists usually wear make up, colorful Kimonos and walk slowly in groups and with a camera in their hands).

The second time we saw two Maikos in full attire! At first I thought they weren't real because they were walking through the most touristy spot in the middle of the day (they usually work in the evening), and there was a photographer who took pictures of them from every angle possible (but it was probably just an annoying stalker tourist). I think they were real because they were walking out of a house in a tiny hidden street (which we only walked into because we were visiting a café there), then they were accompanied by a woman who bowed really deep when she kindly refused requests for taking pictures (dressed-up tourists would often say yes), then they were walking quite fast again and they were wearing no dangling Kanzashi (Maikos are always associated with dangling Kanzashi [flower hair accessories with petals that dangle in your face] and thus all the tourist spots dress you up like this, however they only wear them in their first year).

Of course we also visited some temples in Kyoto. This time we didn't went to the typical tourist spots, but more visiting any temple we saw from the bus or came across. At some point we acutally decided to just sit in a bus with a good route and leave it when we saw something interesting. We also strolled through the historic part of Kyoto, as this was my favorite part of Kyoto the last time, and I loved it again. We might have walked there at least 3 times, also in search of some restaurants and shops hehe ^^'''

We also visited the Kyoto Railway Museum. I'm not a huge fan of trains but I do like trains, which is partly also because there are two really good NHK shows about trains. The museum is really well-made in my opinion, if you are a train nerd it would be heaven for you. I found it nice that you also could go inside the trains and train cabins. However most information is in Japanese, so there might have been some things that we even missed. For example you could do a simulation how to travel the Shinkansen, and a simulation of a ticket automat, but because of my lacking japanese skills I wasn't too sure about how to do it.

On one day we decided to make a trip to Uji, the green tea capital of Japan. I expected a lot from it and already saw myself rolling back to Kyoto stuffed with too much green tea food and suffering from an overdose - but in the end it was quite underwhelming. I read online that there were supposed to be a lot of green tea shops, cafés and restaurants, however in the end the selection was very small (you can find much more in Kyoto itself). There's also not a lot to do in Uji itself, actually it only has a temple - a quite beautiful one though.

But we also found something interesting, which was something like a very short version of a tea ceremony. It was in a authentic traditional tea house / tea room. Before entering, we got a pamplet which described in english how to do the tea ceremony. Since it was for tourists, I thought that they would tell us what to do while they were doing the tea ceremony. But actually they didn't told us anything, they just did all their steps and we tried to awkwardly following the stuff we read (like bowing and turning the tea cup). Also there was an old japanese man which was talking the whole time with the staff. On one side he was nice since he could speak english and sometimes explained us stuff, but then again he was talking the whole time so there was no real atmosphere. Still I was able to try a delicious matcha and wagashi (japanese traditional sweets).

On one day we made a trip to Osaka. It's super close to Kyoto, only 15min with the Shinkansen or 20-30min with local trains. The only reason I wanted to go there was for shopping hehe ^^''' I can really recommend Osaka for shopping even if you also visit Tokyo, because the shops are less frequented there and might have many things that are already sold-out in Tokyo. For example I found two super cheap skirts at Btssb (for ~40€!) which I didn't saw in any store in Tokyo. To my misfortune both the AP and the Metamorphose stores were closed, but I had bought enough stuff already anyway xD. Also nothing catched my eye at Closed Child and Maiden Clothing.

I also visited a store for Koto and Shamisen. I looked it up online and thought it was a huge store with tons of instruments and you could just casually walk in like in any other store, but when we entered, the shop was tiny and the lady asked us what we where looking for and then directly run to the phone to call somebody. She was so quick that only after she made the call I scrambled all my japanese skills together and told her I didn't wanted to buy something, so she had to call again and say I didn't wanted to buy ^^'''.

Then we went eating at Pablos, my favorite cheese cake shop! This time I chose the cheese cake with actual cheese in it :D! My mom had it on our last trip and she liked it, but I didn't really liked it this time ^^'''.

I could write much more but I think I covered the important stuff.
Thank you for reading ~<3

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